(Photo: Reuters/Jim Urquhart)
Utah will continue to allow same-sex marriages after a federal judge refused Monday to grant state lawyers a temporary stay on the unions.
State lawyers had requested a temporary stay on the Friday ruling by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby, who found the state's 2004 ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional because it violated couples' rights to equal protection and due process under the U.S. constitution's 14th amendment. Shelby added that the state's ban on same-sex marriage denied gay citizens "their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason."
The state was seeking a temporary stay in Shelby's ruling, saying it wanted to see the case play out in appeals court before the state actually began allowing same-sex couples to marry. Shelby denied the state's request for a stay against his own previous ruling, saying Monday that the state had not met the legal standards required for him to grant the stay.
Now that the request has been denied, the state's lawyers will reportedly go to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to file for another emergency stay. Acting Attorney General Brian Tarbet said in a statement that Utah will consider going to the Supreme Court if it is not granted a stay by the appeals court.
Tarbet added to Reuters that the state is seeking all of its appeals options because "it's important that the voice of the people be maintained and we are going to do that cognizant of the fact that this is very emotional for many of our citizens on both sides."
Shelby's Friday ruling was considered to be a surprise in the conservative, highly Mormon state of Utah, and Republican Governor Gary Herbert said he was disappointed a judge would try to overturn the will of the state's citizens. The 2004 ban on same-sex marriage was an amendment approved by 66 percent of Utah's voters in the November election.
"I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah," Herbert said in a statement after the ruling.
As the state attempts its appeal in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, same-sex couples have traveled to their county clerk's office over the weekend and Monday to file for a marriage license. "We're going to do it until the judge says stop," Kerri Nakamura, a staff assistant for a county councilman in Salt Lake City told The Associated Press.
Shelby's recent ruling makes Utah the 18th state to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S.